Eric Holcomb

Address: 1900 NE 3rd St STE 106 PMB 361, Bend, OR 97701-3889
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Comet Hyakutake (1996)

This comet came along as a nice surprise while astronomers were waiting for the spring 1997 apparition of Comet Hale-Bopp, which was actually discovered in 1995. The Japanese astronomer Hyakutake discovered two comets in quick succession -- C/1995 Y1 (which never became bright enough to see with the unaided eye) and C/1996 B2, which goes down in history as one of the great comets of the 20th century. Passing only 9 million miles from Earth on the night of March 24-25, 1996, the comet shined at 1st magnitude, with a tail stretching at least 30 degrees of arc across the sky from dark northern hemisphere locations. (Some observers in the southwest desert reported 70 degrees of tail.) Two days later, Hyakutake passed only 3 degrees above the north star, Polaris.

Eric observed Hyakutake (C/1996 B2) on 21 different nights from February 27, 1996 to April 21, 1996. The photo below was taken from Table Mountain north of Ellensburg, Washington at about midnight on the night of closest approach, the single "Greatest Night Ever" of Eric's astronomical observing career! This photo shows only the large coma and the first several degrees of the comet's tail. Near the right hand side of the photo, the M101 galaxy is visible next to a lump of material that appears to have become "disconnected" from the main part of the gas tail.

Hyakutake.JPG (145461 bytes)

Click on thumbnail image to see a larger version of this picture with the details discussed above.